Mythology Mondays: Book Review Edition

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Today (a day late), I want to do something completely different. Instead of talking about a Greek myth, I want to highlight another book by a fellow Texas author who writes fiction based on Greek Mythology.

The Loves of Olympus series, by Sasha Summers, is a wonderful re-imagining of some of the Greek myths we know and love. The first book in the series, Medusa: A Love Story is free now on kindle and the other two in the series, which I have not read yet, are both priced for binging.

medusa summer

If you are at all familiar with Medusa or if you read my mythology post on Medusa a while back, you know that Medusa’s story, no matter how spun, will be tragic. Summers expertly weaves the tragedy together with a beautiful story that ends with an HEA both touching and fitting for her couple.

Summers perfectly nails the personalities of the gods who seek to control the world according to their own narcissistic wants. The havoc they wreck with power that goes unchecked is the force that drives much of the book. How mere mortals deal with the power wielded their way is what makes this story compelling and will keep you turning until the very end.

I recommend this book to anyone who had enjoys the Turning Creek series, a little mythology, and a powerful romance. Spring Break is coming up, perfect time to get a new book and read the day away.

Here is the blurb:

It’s said love
can change a person. Medusa wasn’t always a monster…

Medusa is ruled by duty, to her Titan father and the Goddess Athena. She’s no room for the tenderness her warrior guard, Ariston, stirs. When Olympus frees her from service, her heart leads her into the arms of the guard she loves… and curses her as the creature with serpent locks.

Ariston goes to war with a full heart… and dreadful foreboding. He learns too late of the danger Medusa faces, alone, and a Persian blade sends him into the Underworld. But death, curses, nor the wrath of the Gods will keep him from returning to her.

Poseidon will use Greece’s war to get what he wants: Medusa. He does not care that she belongs to another. He does not care that she will be damned. He is a God, an Olympian, and she will be his. 

 

Mythology Mondays: Mount Olympus

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Photo by stefg74.
Photo of Mytikas, the highest peak on Mount Olympus. Photo by stefg74.

Mount Olympus is an actual set of peaks in the Balkan range in Greece. Mount Olympus consists of 52 individual peaks, the highest of which is Mytikas (pictured above). Mytikas soars to 9, 573 feet, which may seam like small potatoes to Americans who claim many fourteeners, but Mytikas is the highest peak in Greece. It is a popular place for climbers and home to an impressive number of flora and fauna.

In Greek myths, Mount Olympus is the seat of Zeus and the home of the gods. Mytikas was said to be the exact location of the house of the gods which was topped by a bronze dome.

In the world of Turning Creek, the Greek gods did live on Mount Olympus, but their home was destroyed in the uprising led by the original four harpies. The following is an account of those early days, taken from my notes.*


Banished and forgotten on the islands of Strophades, the harpies nursed their bitterness and their appetite for revenge increased. There was very little to do on Strophades except plot the downfall of the cause of their imprisonment. The four harpies swore on the River Styx that they would see Zeus cast down from Mount Olympus and punished for the curses he had placed upon them.

It was not hard for the harpies to find others who had yearned for their own revenge on the Father of Olympus. Zeus had a nasty habit of granting power to others, only to be displeased at the threat he felt to his throne once those powers were wielded. Countless women lost their purity to Zeus and many of his children resented their birth. There were even whispers at the time that Hera, once loving wife to Zeus, had finally grown tired of her husband’s philandering and the growing ranks of bastards in her court.

By the time the rebellion took root, mortals had turned their eyes and their faith from the mountain of the gods. There were no supplicants to record the battles that came nor list the fallen. Few rallied to Zeus’s side and, in the end, those that did, lost all.

In the final battle, the harpies led the charge through the great throne room and tore the flesh from Zeus’s bones. With his last breath, he sent his spirit from his shredded body. It erupted from him in the shape of a thunder bolt and disappeared across the skies.

The harpies had extracted their revenge, but at a great cost. One of their own, Podarge, was killed by Ioke in their final charge. The four shields ran after the death of their master, but word of them cropped up now and then whenever the world found itself at war. Podarge’s body was entombed in Mount Olympus with the fallen of both sides and her line died.

Those left dispersed into the world, intermarried with mortals, and watched as their history became the stuff of legends and myths. With each passing generation, their powers weakened and they became Remnants of their ancestors’ greatness.

Every few generations, a story would surface of some adventurer seeking the lost bolt of Zeus, but it was never found. Few Remnants believed such a thing even existed. Other Remnants remembered the tales of Zeus’s cruelty, passed down to them like bedtime tales of the boogeyman, and they feared one day the stories would be true.


I am giving away a signed copy of Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3) and some fun writing things. The giveaway ends today!

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*Please note that, as an author, I have taken great liberty with the original myths.

Mythology Mondays: Nemean Lion

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

A frequent trope in myths is the hero who is sent on a quest which has previously caused the gruesome deaths of other would-be adventurers. Nothing says, “I hope you fail,” like sending someone off to kill a monster that can’t be killed. Congratulations!

Enter Hercules and the Nemean Lion. Ya’ll know it’s going to end badly for the lion, but play along and be surprised at the end, okay?

A scene from the 2014 film, Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson.
A scene from the 2014 film, Hercules starring Dwayne Johnson.

The Oracles at Delphi command Hercules to perform Twelve Labors for King Eurystheus*, a man Hercules loathed, as penance for killing his family. We do not discuss that last bit very often. The hero Hercules, became a hero, in part, in his effort to make atonement for murdering his wife and two children. The Oracles told Hercules that at the end of his service to Eurystheus, he will be granted eternal life.

The Nemean Lion was so named because it lived in a cave in the valley of Nemea. The entire region was frightened of this beast who gorged itself on the flesh of man and beast alike, then would retreat to its cave at dusk. If you, like me, grew up watching nature documentaries on PBS, you are thinking that lions are nocturnal and this story is already ridiculous.

According to some sources, the lion would occasionally take the appearance of a maiden in distress and lure men to the cave where it lived. Once the men were deep enough in the cave, the woman would turn into the lion and eat the unsuspecting men.

The lion was the son of Echidna and Typhon, whom we have discussed before.

Hercules spied the lion moving slowly one afternoon after it had eaten. Hercules pulled an arrow from his quiver and let it fly. The arrow, much to his surprise, bounced harmlessly off the lion. Confused and frustrated, Hercules tried again with the same results. The lion saw him and jumped towards the hero. Hercules kept his wits and pulled out a large club. Before the lion’s jaws snapped closed, Hercules whacked the lion soundly over the head and the club broke in two.

Here is where the story has two different endings:

In some versions, Hercules wrestled the lion out in a field in the open where he found victory. In most versions, Hercules allowed the lion to retreat to its cave. Hercules blocked one entrance to the cave, leaving the lion with no alternative escape route. Hercules crept into the cave and squeezed the lion’s neck from behind to avoid its claws, strangling it to death.

After defeating the beast, Hercules realized he needs to skin the lion and remove its head to prove he had completed the task. In a fit of grotesque genius, he used the lion’s own claws to skin the body. The skin became his famous loin cape, part of his “I’m a bad ass hero suit.” Hercules took the head of the lion to Eurystheus, who was appalled even though this had indeed been the task he himself gave Hercules, and forbade the hero to bring his spoils into the city. Hercules then went about his next task, slaying the Lernaean Hydra.

In remembrance, Hera places the Nemean Lion among the stars as the constellation Leo.

The third book in the Turning Creek series, Letters in the Snow, comes out Thursday! You can pre-order it now: ebook – Amazon, Google PlayKobo

*Originally, it was ten labors but Eurystheus was angry that Hercules kept coming back alive.

 

Mythology Mondays: Satyr

Welcome back to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series.

Honestly, when I set out to write this, even though I knew it was not accurate, this is what my mind thinks a satyr looks like:

Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Or perhaps like this:

Dancing fauns from Fantasia.
Dancing fauns from Fantasia.

What I tend to think of as satyrs are actually fauns. A much better example of a satyr would be this:

A saytr from the land of Narnia.
A saytr from the land of Narnia.

In true Greek mythology, satyrs were between a faun and the Narnia satyr above. In Greek mythology, satyrs were closely tied with Dionysus though they were also known to cavort with and serve Gaia, Rheia, Hermes, and Hephaestus. They were most often the companions of Dionysus, drinking and playing flutes or tambourines. The flute was their preferred instrument.

A Greek vase depicting a satyr with Dionysus.
A Greek vase depicting a satyr with Dionysus.

Satyrs had the head of a man, but had pug noses, donkey ears, donkey or horse hind legs, and a horse tail. Though their body was mostly hairless, they were almost always depicted with long dark hair and beards. If they wore clothes, they were made from animal skins with the fur still intact and wore laurels of vines or ivy on their brow. They were considered to be symbols of nature, life, and the harvest, and as such were often shown with large, erect members. *cough* If you do a Google image search for satyr quite a few interesting things come up. I would advise you not trying that one at work.

Satyrs often consorted (sexually) with the nymphs, maenads, and other bacchanals. By some accounts, they were adapt at every kind of sensual pleasure. Their main purpose seems to be to follow Dionysus around, drink, and pursue females of all kinds.

Their parentage is disputed. The most widely held belief is that the satyrs were the sons of Hermes and Iphthima or that they were descended from the Naiads. They were also claimed by Silen. Strabo wrote that they were sons of the five daughters of Hecataeus and the daughter of Phoroneus.

In Turning Creek, satyrs make an appearance at the end of Lightning in the Dark as not very welcome additions to a gathering.

Mythology Mondays: Manticore

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains, are out now. Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3) comes out in February.

A Greek historian and physician, Ctesias, who lived in the 4th century B.C., and served in the court of Artexerxes II, wrote a book called Indica (India) which included descriptions of many terrible animals he said could be found in the land of Persia. One such monster he described had a diet which consisted mainly of human flesh.

A brass engraving of a manticore by Joannes Jonstonus.
A brass engraving of a manticore by Joannes Jonstonus.

The Manticore (“man-eater” in Persian) was called Anthropophagos (“man-eater”) by the Greeks. Ctesias described it this way:

It has a face like a man’s, a skin red as cinnabar, and is as large as a lion. It has three rows of teeth, ears and light-blue eyes like those of a man; its tail is like that of a land scorpion, containing a sting more than a cubit long at the end.

The manticore’s stinger had the unpleasant and deadly ability to launch poison darts, like arrows, at its prey. Later, historians theorized the tale of the manticore originated from sightings of nothing more exotic than tigers.

Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century A.D., described the sound of the manticore as a horrifying combination of pan-pipe and trumpet.

Manticores are a staple of many different mythologies and have made appearances in modern fantasy stories and worlds like Westeros (George R.R. Martin) and Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling).

In Turning Creek, the matriarch of the Neal family is a manticore. I will close this post with an amazing picture of some fabulous street art from Australia.

Art by McMillan and Gage from H-Studios.Blogspot.com
Art by McMillan and Gage from H-Studios.Blogspot.com

Mythology Mondays: Echidna

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains, are out now. They make great Christmas gifts. 

I am not, sadly, going to talk about this Echidna, also known as the Spiny Ant Eater.

echidna animal
Look at that cute face!

Instead, we are talking about Echidna,  known as the Monstrous Mother of Monsters, who was both prolific in her fecundity and frightening in what she produced. The myths of Echidna and Python are frequently the same stories.

Her parentage is much disputed, but all stories hold fast to the tale that she was born of slime and rotting things. In one version, she springs from the leftover sludge from the great Deluge. Yes, that one that Noah rode through in his ark. Echidna had the head and breast of a woman and the body of a serpent or dragon. She needed those breasts, apparently, for all the horrible children she would eventually bear.

Echidna was given in marriage to the horrible Typhon, the one hundred headed dragon beast. You know they saying, “There’s someone for everyone”? It turns out, Echidna took one look at all of Typhon’s scaly heads and fell head over dragon body in love with him. Typhon, likewise, was quite taken with his new bride. So taken that they spent much of their time engaging in marital relations because their list of offspring was both impressive and frightening.

Their children included:

  • Orthus – the two-headed hound
  • Cerberus – the three-headed hound
  • The Sphinx – the half feline, half woman who ate men who could not answer her riddles
  • Nemean Lion – who could only die by strangulation
  • Ladon – the dragon
  • Lernaean Hydra – a dragon who lived in water and spit acid
  • Chimera – a fire breathing  lioness with a snake tail
  • Caucasian Eagle – who ate the liver of Prometheus every day
  • Crommyonian Sow – a vicious pig who terrorized the region around Crommyonian
  • The Gorgons – fierce female monsters who ate men and whose number included Medusa
  • Colchian Dragon – guarded the Golden fleece and never slept, ate, or wavered
  • Scylla – sea goddess with the head of a woman and the body of a snake
  • Harpies – in some versions the harpies spring from the loins of Echidna and Typhon
  • Other various serpents and plagues on mankind

I wonder what their family gatherings were like when they all sat around the table for dinner together.

Echidna: Sphinx darling, what did you learn today?

Sphinx: I learned fat, stupid men taste delicious.

Echidna: That sounds lovely, my dear.

In most of the myths, Echidna is an ageless horror. There are two accounts of her death. In one, Apollo slays her to rid the Earth of her foul presence. In another, she is slain by Argos, the hundred-eyed giant at the behest of Hera because Hera had grown tired of Echidna’s foulness.

Echidna and some of her most famous offspring come to Turning Creek but to tell you more would spoil the fun.

 

Mythology Mondays: Cerberus

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains, are out now.

Be honest. I know most of you think of this when you think of Cerberus:

Hagrid, was his hair on fire?

We can all learn a life lesson from Hagrid’s penchant to acquire things in pubs. If a slightly inebriated, shady chap is trying to get you to win a three headed dog or dragon egg, just call it a loss and walk away. Nothing good ever comes from this kind of transaction. Just ask Harry.

Cerberus, thrice the heads, thrice the drool.

Cerberus was another illustrious offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Cerberus was a dog with three heads and was said to have a serpentine tail and a mane of snakes. Remember, Greeks did not think a large three-headed dog was scary enough. They added some other animals parts to make him truly horrifying.

Cerberus guarded the entrance to the Underworld. He allowed shades (souls) to go in but would not let them leave. He was without pity and feasted upon raw flesh.

The last of Hercules’ twelve tasks was to capture Cerberus. Not to be daunted, Hercules made the journey to the underworld and asked Hades for the hound. Hades agreed on two conditions. Hercules could not use any weapon but his own strength and no harm was to come to Cerberus. Hercules agreed.

Hercules wrestled the three-headed hound, managing to wrap his strong arms around all three of Cerberus’ throats. Even though Hercules was bitten by the snakes on Cerberus’ mane, he subdued the beast and carried him out of the Underworld slung over his shoulders.

Hercules presented Cerberus to King Eurystheus at the gates of Tiryns. Eurystheus begged Hercules to let the monster go and not leave him at the gates of his city. Hercules released Cerberus and the hound returned to his duty in the Underworld.

There are various versions of the tale of Hercules and Cerberus, but they all end with Hercules triumphant and Cerberus back at his post.

In Turning Creek, the Remnant of Cerberus has only one head, but he manages to cause quite a bit of havoc.

Mythology Mondays: Ladon

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

"VarnaDragons" by Grantscharoff - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VarnaDragons.jpg#/media/File:VarnaDragons.jpg
Photo of a statue in Varna, Bulgaria by  Grantscharoff

Today, we are talking about dragons! Who doesn’t love dragons? This girl LOVES them. Every once in awhile, I binge through a dragon shifter series. Because dragons.

The dragon-like monster in Greek mythology was the Ladon. He was said to be the monstrous child of two monsters, Typhon and Echidna. The Ladon was a one hundred headed serpent who guarded the golden apples of Hesperides.

Hesperides, a goddess of the golden light of sunrise and sunset, was frequently given the task of guarding treasures of the other gods and goddesses. The tree which bore the golden apples was a gift of Gaia, the Earth, to Hera on the occasion of her marriage to Zeus. The apples, besides being beautiful, could bestow immortality to whoever ate them. These were the same apples that were used to trick Atalanta into marriage. Hesperides used the Ladon to guard her garden in which the tree of the golden apples grew.

The Ladon frequently tormented the Titan, Atlas, who carried the world on his shoulders. In some tales, the Ladon was said to be able to mimic voices.

Photo by By Nicolas Vollmer from Munich.
Photo by By Nicolas Vollmer from Munich.

Among the twelve labors given to Hercules by the Oracle at Delphi was to collect some of the golden apples. Hercules slay the Ladon who stood sentinel in Hesperides’ garden and took the apples. Zeus placed the slain monster in the stars as the constellation Draco. He is entwined around the North Star.

Mythology Mondays: Charon

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

Everyone has heard of the ferryman who takes souls to the Underworld, but not everyone knows that his name was Charon. Many cultures have a death ritual which involves laying coins on the eyes or under the tongue of the deceased as Charon’s Obol or coin. This coin or coins paid Charon’s toll for the ferry ride across the River Styx or the Acheron, the lake of pain, depending on which version of the myth you are reading.

An etching of Charon by Dore.
An etching of Charon by Dore.

Charon was the son of Erebus, the primordial god of darkness who existed before the Greek gods came to power. Charon served Hades by captaining the ferry which carried souls across Acheron to the Underworld. The obol placed in the mouth of the deceased when they were buried was his payment. The souls of people who were left unburied or who were without payment were left to wander the land of in-between as ghosts.

Charon does not feature in any stories centered around himself, but he plays a supporting role in the adventures of other gods when they find themselves on the shore of Acheron seeking an audience with Hades.

Charon was often described as a bearded, surly man whose eyes shone with unnatural color or, as in Dante’s Inferno, with fire. I imagine ferrying the dead would make anyone surly. Can you imagine how hacked off some of those people are? Or how sad they would be?

Charon and Psyche (oil on canvas) by Stanhope, John Roddam Spencer (1829-1908) oil on canvas
Charon and Psyche (oil on canvas) by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

Psyche uses Charon’s service on one of her quests. She was on her way to beg Persephone for a box a beauty ointment because nothing says everlasting youth like cream from the queen of the dead.

In Turning Creek, Charon has not made an appearance, but the characters do refer to him and his services into the Underworld.

Mythology Mondays: Laelaps

Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: dog people and cat people. I am a dog person. I married a man who thought he was a cat person owing to the fact that he always had cats growing up. His mother is a cat person. He was a dog person just waiting for a dog to be in his life. We now have two large, ridiculous dogs and everyone is happy about it except my mother-in-law.

This post is not about my crazy dogs. This post is about Laelaps, the hurricane dog of Greek mythology.

Laelaps is a female in some stories and a male in others. I am going to refer to Laelaps as a she because I like imagining a powerful female dog running around causing a bit of panic.

Laelaps chasing the Teumessian Fox.
Laelaps chasing the Teumessian Fox.

Laelaps originally belonged to Zeus. She was a fierce hunting hound who, once set on her prey, never failed to catch it.

Zeus stumbled upon the maiden Europa picking flowers one day and he decided that he must have this woman as his own. To those of you who have been paying attention, this should come as no big shock. Instead of declaring his intentions, like a normal person, Zeus decided on his usual practice of transforming himself into something, this time a white bull, and seducing (or perhaps pestering) Europa until she climbed up on his back and he kidnapped her.

Zeus set Europa up as the Queen of Crete and gave her three gifts. One of the gifts was his beloved hound, Laelaps. Europa named the son that she bore after riding the white bull Minos. Minos inherited not only the kingship of Crete, but also the hound, Laelaps.

I was unable to find exactly how Procris ended up with Laelaps, but at some point Minos gifted the hound to Procris who took it home to please his wife, Kephalos, after they had an argument about being on a “break.”

 

It is possible that Artemis, goddess of the hunt, may have gifted Laelaps to Procris, but accounts differ.

About this time, the Teumessian Fox was terrorizing Thebes. The mythical fox was a monster that could never be caught. To appease it, the people of Thebes fed it a small male child once a month. As you can imagine, the people of Thebes tired of this arrangement very quickly. They appealed to Kephalos who sent Laelaps after the fox.

The hound who always catches its prey chasing after a fox who could never be caught created an unsolvable conundrum. The hound chased the fox for many days. Zeus grew tired of this and turned both animals to stone. He put them in the sky as the constellations Canis Major and Canis Minor where they chase each other forever.

In Storm in the Mountains, Marina meets the Remnant of Laelaps on one of her adventures.